Big Red One is a tremendous improvement over Spark's failed attempt in 2004
It had smart, relatable characters, authentic tactical combat and best of all an online mode that everyone could enjoy. It almost came out a sleeper hit and caused its competitors (namely EA) to re-draw and re-brand its own historic shooter franchises to suit the expectations set by Infinity Ward's landmark cinematic action shooter.
So by 2004 when Call of Duty Finest Hour eventually graced the Nintendo Gamecube, where did Activision go wrong? No multiplayer, poorly conceived controls, bland level designs and awfully glitchy animations are exactly where new developers Spark went wrong. On the whole Spark was also incapable of capturing the same Hollywood galvanised gameplay found otherwise on the PC version of Call of Duty.
Now fast forward to 2005 and veteran developers Treyarch enter their own new version of Call of Duty for the consoles. Call of Duty 2 Big Red One is the sequel to the ultimately disappointing Finest Hour only this time it is a cut closer to its computer cousin. Straight from the get-go you'll be forced into action and introduced to your comrades through Call of Duty's high quality in-game cut-scenes.
And unlike in the first Gamecube Call of Duty which introduces your characters only to swiftly take you away shortly after, the entire of Big Red One is played through the eyes of the Big Red One. As such, you'll play each of their operations too from Africa, to Sicily and eventually Normandy.
With COD 2, you'll face a number of different weapons and obstacles as you face every new environment. You'll be relieved at how much of an improvement COD 2 is in comparison to Finest Hour. Needless to say it is a very Hollywood esque design through fantastic orchestral compositions and top notch presentation.
Even on the very first mission, you're thrust into action as you assault Maubeug, France. There are planes flying in the background, squadrons passing by, fighting for their own objectives nearby, and of course your own squadmates themselves discussing what to do.
You're fighting with your standard Thompson Sub-Machinegun and M1 Garand as usual with dozens of German forces working to defend their positions. But what COD 2 does what COD 1 didn't is make play consistent in its pace so the momentum of each level will feel as it is. Big Red One features many defence objectives, such as being told to commandeer gun placements and tanks in order to repel the strong Axis resistant embarking on your position.
Objectives can also range from the typical destruction of key German targets to providing firing spots for artillery support. On the whole, levels are larger and more diverse in tasks and vantage points for fighting. Call of Duty 2 runs much more refined than its predecessor arguably better than the Medal of Honour games by EA which were released only a few years prior.
And by refined it is an incredible improvement of the existing features we've seen in a FPS with far better console optimisation in all areas of Big Red One such as with better controls, checkpoint systems, heads up display and level layouts. In fact, one of the levels, Liberators, delicately constructs the inside of the bomber as you pilot the various weapons onboard its hull against German enemy aircraft.
Unfortunately Big Red One's campaign is a very prompt and linear one with only thirteen missions that can be completed in well within less than ten hours of game time. While this can be forgiven what can't be is still the major lacking of multiplayer on Big Red One. The Gamecube version of Call of Duty 2 still has no multiplayer what so ever.
While it is understandable that there is a lack of online play (seeing as the machine does not support it), spiltscreen multiplayer can't be turned down by developers – especially when a game like Big Red One has such an exciting single player campaign otherwise. Big Red One also does have some occasional, often confusing glitches that can be found during play such as invisible walls and somewhat dense team AI.
Visually the title is solid. The levels and characters have a nice bit of detail to them, there is a physics engine too, but neither pushes the Gamecube to its limits either. Big Red One also suffers from some occasional frame-rate dips which can startle the fire fights in rare bouts. Fortunately the sound department is spectacular on Call of Duty 2.
The game makes use of orchestral sounds and atmospheric beats and the voice acting, while not particularly cleverly written is still solid regardless. The accents and effort can be heard though can be undeniably corny at times.
But contrary to these failings, Call of Duty 2 Big Red One is a tremendous improvement over Spark's failed attempt with Finest Hour in 2004. And regardless of a short campaign and lack of multiplayer it is well worth the search for if in need of another high quality third party Gamecube release.